Small county communities rich with own histories

Sumas residents held a parade to celebrate July 4, 1904.
Sumas residents held a parade to celebrate July 4, 1904. PHOTO COURTESY OF LYNDEN PIONEER MUSEUM

Every small town and community in Whatcom County has its own history. Here's a sample:


Now a quiet crossroads north of Ferndale, a creamery was built there in 1886 and Custer bustled in the 1920s with a bank, church, school, post office, two general stores, a drugstore and many grain outlets. A vibrant stop on Highway 99 and the Great Northern railway, its depot was said to be as clean and orderly as the town itself.

The town was named in 1886 to honor Albert Custer, a merchant and postmaster.


The riverfront town is named for Ever Everson, a settler who arrived in 1871 and homesteaded north of the Nooksack.

Everson has supported many businesses integral to Whatcom County history. Kale Cannery, begun in 1909 by C.S. Kale, canned fruit, beans, peas, corn and beets, but eventually closed in the '60s. In the early '40s, the cannery employed about 550 to 600 workers, mostly in the summer.

Nooksack Valley Condensed Milk Co., also in Everson, was sold in 1909 and became plant No. 7 of the world famous Carnation Milk Co.

When the railroad arrived in 1900, Everson quickly became a shipping center for the central county and soon absorbed small communities nearby.


Named after the Indian tribe that lived in the area, Nooksack was a scant mile from Everson in the beginning. Now the two towns abut one another.

Originally platted in 1885, Nooksack grew to 415 people within five years, fueled by a mining boom and anticipation of the Northern Pacific Railroad. But a fire in 1906 destroyed much of the business area and some homes, and major fires struck several more times over the next two decades. Those fires and a decline in mining squelched major growth of the town.


In 1872, R. A. Johnson settled along the edge of a great natural prairie around a mile-wide lake, never dreaming of the town that would grow there.

"Sumas" is an Indian word meaning "big flat opening." Johnson and a few other families were the only settlers in the area until the early 1880s. At the time, only two trails reached Sumas. The post office and school were two miles away.

But Sumas boomed in 1889 when two railways ran lines through to Canada. By 1892 Sumas had over 2,500 people, 11 inns and many hotels.

Before Prohibition, people could easily walk down the street into Canada and return home with only a cursory glance from a customs agent. Today, Sumas is well known for its rodeo, an annual affair since 1924.